Wednesday, May 23, 2012

96th Indy 500 Field Is Set - Carb Day is Next

Ryan Briscoe starts P1 at Indy for the first time May 27, 2012
The 96th running of the Indianapolis is now just days away and I'll bet Ryan Briscoe is on pins and needles waiting for the final practice session on Friday at Carburetion Day. Most teams have run in small packs during practice leading up to qualifications this past weekend, but Friday will be the first real opportunity to experience raceday conditions on the 2.5 mile IMS oval. I hope it is a safe practice session, especially since there were only 33 cars available to qualify this year, and the slowest two are both sporting Lotus power, more than 10 mph slower than Briscoe's pole winning pace.

Simona DiSilvestro drives for HVM
Speaking of Lotus, I feel terrible for Simona DiSilvestro and Jean Alesi. They deserve better than what has been given them for powerplants, and if not for Penske's pull with Chevy, then Sebastian Bourdais and Katherine Legge would likely have been in the same situation. The Lotus engines are woefully shy on speed and since Indycar has decided not to let them run at higher boost levels for their twin turbo engines this weekend, odds are very good that Simona and Alesi will get blackflagged early for not being able to run within 5% of the leaders speed. Simona could barely get to 214 last week and Alesi's best lap was only 210, so if race speeds are between 210 and 220 for the leaders (which is likely going to be the case with larger aero tows on race day, even with the Chevy's and Honda's dropping back to pre-qualifying turbo boost levels), then the two Lotus runners are going to be in trouble if they are running around 200.

Jean Alesi struggled with Lotus power
When did anyone think 200 mph would be slow at Indy? This year, it's not just slow, it's potentially dangerously slow. Simona deserves so much more than this after her practice session accident which burned her hands in Turn 4 last year, and Alesi will not be given a chance to really race at Indy, which I'm sure is why he came to Indy at age 47 after being away from Formula One for a few years. Racers are racers and it's just too bad that Lotus couldn't get its act together before now, and whatever gains Bourdais brought them with their lone Top 10 finish earlier this season on a road course, they have thrown them away now that Jay Penske's Dragon Racing team has fought its way into the Chevy camp this past week. Who can blame them? Not me.

Jay at IMS Turn 3 drop gate
For the first time in memory, I did not even make it to the Speedway for Bump Day this past Sunday, and anyone who knows me would surely be surprised at that. I had other commitments that day and I knew there would be no real drama with only a total of nine car-driver combinations available to make qualifying runs for the final nine open positions. The real drama was Saturday on Pole Day and there was no way I would miss that.  I have not been able to spend as much time at IMS this year due to work conflicts and what I've discovered is that I have had to take a different approach with my photography and race coverage writing. Limited time at the track has forced me to be more selective and creative in what I shoot, rather than just blasting away and I think my recent experience shooting for Associated Press at other races has helped me hone in on getting the right shot and getting it quickly. I'd like to think my work has improved as a result, but I'll leave that up to others to judge. I am hoping to do at least one other blog post following Carb Day to wrap up final preparations for this year's 500 and provide coverage of the Firestone Indy Lights Freedom 100. Until then, if you would like to see all of the slideshows I have posted so far, then please click here. See you in Turn 3 this weekend!

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